There’s great power in finding your people. And for 25 years, PEAK has been a place where grants management professionals learn that they are not alone.
Even before we first organized ourselves in 1996 under the name Grants Managers Network (GMN), members of the PEAK Grantmaking community were connecting people and inspiring ambitious ideas. But you don’t grow into a network of 5,500 members overnight. It begins with two people. It starts with collaboration.
Discover the Origins of PEAK Grantmaking
In 1991, PEAK Grantmaking co-founder Ann Gael moved into a grants manager role at the Aaron Diamond Foundation and realized that there was a lot she didn’t know. Like many people in philanthropy new to the field of grants management, she needed help navigating the complexities of grantmaking. A colleague of hers at the Surdna Foundation recommended that she meet with fellow grants manager Margaret Egan. With Margaret’s help, Ann believed she could begin to understand the challenges that came with her new role.
The pair met at Cafe Un Deux Trois in New York City and decided that they needed to bring together people who had more information than they could access by themselves. “My hope was professional development all around. I wanted to find people who knew things that I didn’t know yet,” Ann said.
Fun fact: You can find Cafe Un Deux Trois, where Ann and Margaret first met and discussed the need for a network of grantmakers, at 123 W. 44th St. in New York City’s Times Square.
Because grants managers’ titles come in all shapes and sizes, Ann and Margaret struggled to find their peers. As a solution, they used a directory from the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers (now Philanthropy New York) to call up people with similar job titles and asked them to meet them in New York. Twelve people attended their first meeting, and, as Ann remembers, “it was a resounding success.”
By working together, this small community of grants managers began to build a cohesive body of knowledge. Members asked one another, “What does your application look like?” “What does your reporting system look like?” “How long do you wait between an interim and a final grant?” Doing so allowed them to share tools and insights that gave a voice to grants managers across philanthropy.
Ann and Margaret wanted to create a support system that would enable them to develop their careers while also working together to bring about real change. “The more people that can come somewhere and feel that they have met people that are of value to them—that’s everything. That seems to be the driving force that kept PEAK in this vanguard position of true collaboration and camaraderie,” Margaret said.
Our founders’ early focus on collaboration and mentorship remains central to PEAK today, especially our Learn, Share, Evolve Principle, which calls on grantmakers to help build sector-wide knowledge by learning from peers who are pursuing change and impact. It is also a value that continues to attract purpose-driven individuals like Satonya Fair, our resident and CEO. Before finding her community at PEAK, she had attended conferences where you might meet new people, but you more or less returned to work unchanged. After 10 years with the PEAK community, she reflected on her first conference in Seattle:
“It was different when I came home from Seattle. I knew PEAK was truly going to help me fight battles, get over huge milestones and had people who understood me sitting in this role as the director of grants at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. … When I think about PEAK Grantmaking and the experience I’ve had, all I can say is there’s nothing like finding your people.”